A More Efficient Showerhead can Pay For Itself in 6 Months of Savings on Your Hydro Bill
We try to highlight upgrades that can save you money while saving energy, to help take some of the sting out of opening your wallet to save the world. Efficient showerheads are high on that list.
EcoVéa,the intelligent shower © Reveeco
First of all, it's worth noting that a Canadian will use use over 1.4 million litres of water per person per year, or about 4 to 5 times that of most European citizens. This is according to the SDWF (Safe Drinking Water Foundation).
This makes us the second highest consumers of water in the world, surpassed only by the U.S. This isn't something to be proud of considering that a lot of the world lives on about one of our flushes per day, and they are lucky if it is clean.
A standard showerhead will use 9.5 litres per minute (lpm), though there are still some being sold that use as much as 14 litres per minute. Some of the earlier low-flow models offer a completely unrewarding mist that can actually create a breeze and leave you chilled; others shoot tiny jets of water that rip holes in your skin. No one wants to leave a shower cold and in pain, so needless to say those weren't big sellers.
Conclusions from recent tests at Ecohabitation in Montreal shed some light on modern water saving fixtures.The consensus is that you can't actually tell the difference between a 9.5 lpm and a high quality 6.6 lpm showerhead.
So with comfort and cleanliness out of the way, let’s run the numbers. Calculations are based on the consumption of a family of four taking a daily shower for 10 minutes each at a temperature of 38 °C. This is an average (albeit decadent on a global scale) Canadian family consumption.
Based on that level of use, moving to a low-flow showerhead from a 9.5 lpm will save 42,340 litres of water and 1180 kwh of power per year. While hydro rates vary across the country, in Quebec where they are among the cheapest, you will still see a savings of $102 annually in exchange for a one-time purchase, ranging in price from $10 to $50 depending on model and quality. Not many other investments offer that kind of return.
What you should look for when shopping is a showerhead that carries a 'Watersense' mark. Watersense is a certification issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, which looks at both flow rates and quality of components.
Thermostatic mixing valve © Symmons
Other useful options:
Flow switch: You won't find this on all models, but a flow switch allows you to stop the water from flowing as you soap up, while maintaining the right temperature.
Thermostatic mixing valve: Rather than messing around with the hot and cold taps, you can quickly select the water temperatures as well as prevent scalding by setting a maximum temperature. This is what comfort and efficiency in one package looks like.
Powerpipe greywater heat recovery system © RenewABILITY Energy Inc.
Power pipe: If you've ever heard the term 'greywater heat recovery', this is it. Before entering your hot water heater, the cold water feed goes through thin copper pipes wrapped around the drain. Heat from the draining water warms the incoming water before it enters the water heater. This is another big money and energy saver worth the investment.
The ultimate water saver:
Tired of endless showers by their teenagers, two Quebec fathers, Réal Villeneuve and Luc Harvey seem to have found the magic solution. The fixture they named the "shower Geni" is a piece that can be installed on any showerhead and allows you to set time limits for an automatic shut off.
Geni efficient showerhead © Geni
A brass pipe is installed that gradually while showering closes the valve after the elapsed time. It takes two minutes to empty the chamber and get the water moving again, quite a long period when you are standing there wet, so this is as good a deterrent to the endless shower as you will ever find.
So when it comes to a good return on investment with green products, hot water efficiency is a great place to start, saving both water and heating energy.
While it doesn't often make front-page news, freshwater is a rapidly dwindling global resource. We in the first world have been relatively sheltered from the impacts of water shortages, but that won't be the case forever. Many cities have already experienced water rationing, which should be a wakeup call to all of us.
More on plumbing and water conservation.